Use of Proper Hearing Protection

by Dr. Jennifer Stinson

Have you ever woken up the morning after a loud concert with a loud ringing in your ears? Do you often cut the grass without hearing protection? Do you have a hobby like target shooting? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you should invest in some good hearing protection. Audiologists and Otolaryngologists often educate people on hearing loss and treatment of hearing loss. We fill our websites with information about hearing aids and other types of amplified devices. However, we also have a duty to talk about the prevention of hearing loss. One of the questions I always ask my patients is, “have you ever been exposed to loud noise or had a job that was loud and required you to wear hearing protection?” Often the answer I get back is, ‘Oh yea, I used to work in a factory, but that was years ago.’ I’m here (no pun intended) to tell you that it doesn’t matter how long ago you were exposed to that noise; it probably still did some damage. Noise-induced hearing loss is often something that is a result of consistent exposure to loud sounds that will slowly affect the hearing nerve. It sometimes starts as experiencing occasional ringing or hissing in the ears, which is called tinnitus. When we’re young, we expose ourselves to things that we don’t realize may have an adverse effect on us as we age, and loud noise is one of those things. Hearing protection will help to prevent your hearing from getting worse. There are many different types of hearing protection, starting with basic over-the-counter foam plugs. These are very effective if inserted and used correctly. Custom hearing protection is made by a professional taking a mold of your ear so that the plugs fit, secure, and seal the ear canal. Many types of custom protection can be made with filters to help let you hear some sounds. For example, if you wanted hearing protection to wear to concerts, you would want a filter that still allowed you to hear all of the frequencies equally. If you are a musician, you would also want filters, but the most appropriate filter would depend on what instrument you play. There is also hearing protection that allows you to have a conversation, but when there is a loud sound, it will still help to suppress it. This would be used for people who hunt, target shoot, or work in loud factories and need to hear for safety reasons.

If you can relate to this article, I encourage you to seek out the appropriate type of hearing protection. If you are experiencing tinnitus, it can be an indication of an underlying problem, and I recommend you make an appointment with an Audiologist or Otolaryngologist.

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